One of the more pressing questions in PCs right now is what’s coming next in Microsoft’s Surface line. The Surface Studio was added in October 2016, and the Surface Book received its Performance Base refresh. But the Surface Pro 5 is highly anticipated, and a Surface Book 2 upgrade seems likely.
There’s a new rumor in town that suggests Microsoft will go in a completely different direction with its premier Windows 10 2-in-1, the Surface Book. Specifically, the rumor says that the company will abandon the 2-in-1 format altogether and make a traditional clamshell notebook instead, as Digitimes reports.
According to “sources from the related upstream supply chain,” the newest Surface Book will be a lower-cost variant that will compete directly against traditional notebooks. In fact, according to the same sources, the new model is already in production and will be announced yet this March or April at the latest.
Rumors always abound when it comes to important products like Microsoft’s Surface line. Some rumors make more sense than others, and it’s easy to see why this particular rumor makes less. The alleged impetus behind such a decision is that Microsoft needs a lower-priced Surface Book to spur demand for today’s low-volume and pricey models, and that the Surface Book cuts into sales of the Surface Pro 4.
As long as we’re speculating, we need to consider that the ability to convert Surface devices from one format to another has been the line’s hallmark since the first Surface was introduced. Microsoft was concerned about the state of the touch-centric PC market and how well it highlighted its new Windows 8 operating system. Traditional Windows PCs were doing just fine given Intel’s Ultrabook initiative, and rather it was the lack of good machines to show off Windows 8 that Microsoft likely felt the need to address.
At the same time, Surface Pro 4 sales have been quite strong, and Microsoft demonstrated with the extremely expensive Surface Studio — which has also sold better than expected — that the company is both willing and able to sell at the very highest end. If Microsoft does something with pricing, it’s easier to predict that they’ll make the new Surface Book even more expensive. After all, its OEM partners are making better and better 2-in-1s that show off Windows 10’s capabilities, and Microsoft has less reason to compete directly with them.
Ultimately, if someone were placing a bet on a lower-priced Surface Book, then it may be more logical to assert that Microsoft would introduce a 360-degree convertible style machine. The high-tech muscle wire detachable mechanism and tablet-centric design probably add a bit to the price of today’s Surface Book, and lower-tech hinges and a more traditional design might be less expensive to produce.
But this is all speculation, of course. Only Microsoft knows what it’s planning to do with the Surface Book, and with the Surface Pro 4, for that matter. And so far, Microsoft isn’t talking.